What was the most popular movie in France on July 10th, 1987? Google it. Who had the chart-topping song in the summer of 1998? Google it. What are the Most Popular BBQ & Grilling Websites
in the world? Google won’t give up that information easily. They know the details; they just aren’t sharing. Information is a commodity, and if you’re interested in taking a deep dive into site metrics, you’ll likely have to cough up the money to pay for it. However, there are some ways around this.
Recently, the subject came up at a small dinner party with friends. So, being an investigational journalist with a strong IT and analytics background, I decided to immerse myself in countless hours of site metrics research using free, publicly accessible web tools. While the data varies, there are several reliable sources to run website traffic comparisons. By combining these statistics, adjusting for methodology, and creating a process of weighting these sources, I could paint as accurate a picture as possible.
Step one, define what is meant by a barbecue and grilling website. I started with a broad list and then began pairing it down. First to go were all corporate sites, like Weber, Traeger, and Big Green Egg. Second, I removed the storefronts like BBQGuys.com and sites for promoting individuals like myronmixon.com. Third, I took out general information sites that have some barbecue-related content but are not specifically topic-focused. This included AllRecipes.com, The Kitcn.com, or any large recipe or cooking information site. Finally, I removed forums from the list, as they qualify as collective efforts-- though they may share a broad knowledge of outdoor cooking information.
The websites included in the list are non-corporate media sites that focus primarily on outdoor cooking ranging from hardcore barbecue, including popular items to take to a cookout. To compile this list, I ran a series of searches for terms related to the subject. These searches included, but were not limited to: BBQ Rub Recipes, How to Grill a Steak, Brisket Smoking, Popular Cookout Side Dishes, etc. I then used SEO tools to sift through the sites with comparable topic searches.
I randomly chose pages within each website to determine their topic. Sites on the list are approximately 90% content (disregarding navigational pages) and 80% centered on barbecue and grilling. All of them operate on ad revenue as well as affiliate sales. Most offer their own line of products, including rubs, sauces, and apparel. However, in each case, merchandise made up only a small portion of the overall content. Now I was getting somewhere. These sites all fell under the definition of barbecue and grilling content sites.
I then ran these sites through Alexa Web Ranking to get a rough breakdown of their relative placement. From there, I checked multiple sites to estimate recent traffic, weighted the data, and then drew an average measurement of that traffic. Keep in mind that these are free services. The sites listed below invariably make use of Google Analytics statistics to track user and page view data. That information is proprietary to the site owners themselves and not publicly shared.
The free services I used provided the number of users while others estimated the number of page views. Data from free services were then compared with more reliable subscription-based data. Numbers were then adjusted to bring them in line with this information. Free web tracking data spans anywhere from 3-6 months of information, depending on the provider, and some traffic estimates run about 16-18 months long. Information was weighted to provide a more recent perspective on the landscape. Numbers were adjusted using standard statistical modeling to maintain the relative comparison of traffic between the sites listed. If you are interested in the sources you can find additional information below.
Some readers might find these results surprising. Let me assure you that the pattern is evident, especially for the top five sites where the traffic patterns appear consistent.
|SEMRush||SEO Review Tools||SE Rankings|
|Hey Grill, Hey||1,778,047||3,789,712||2,700,000|
|Smoked BBQ Source||801,612||1,922,695||1,100,000|
These numbers fluctuate from source to source, but the disparity in the numbers has to do with how these tools display traffic information. In some cases, they reflect users, which means one person (or browser) accessing the site, even though they might view more than one page. Other numbers (the larger ones) reflect actual page views or the number of times a page was loaded.
Let’s look at it differently by breaking down the top five by percentages of traffic received compared to the most popular site. In other words, let’s see what percentage of Hey Grill Hey’s traffic these sites earned as calculated by the three most reliable free data sources. As you can see, while there is slight variability, the pattern is consistent.
|SEMRush||SEO Review Tools||SE Rankings|
|Hey Grill, Hey||100%||100%||100%|
|Smoked BBQ Source||45%||51%||41%|
Size Isn’t Everything
People tend to think that bigger is better when it comes to a website. That is seldom true. Compare, for instance, Hey Grill Hey versus the largest BBQ website, The Barbecue Bible. Hey Grill, Hey has an estimated 487 pages of content as of May 21, 2021, while the Barbecue Bible has 3,442 pages. The number of indexed pages in a modern website can be deceiving since there are often infrastructural pages, navigation elements, and pages that search engines use but don’t display.
But assuming that these numbers are near accurate (and they are, I examined both Google indexed content and individual sitemaps), you will find that Hey Grill, Hey performs dramatically better than The Barbecue Bible on a pageview per page basis. Using numbers from SEMRush for one month (see chart above), Hey Grill Hey generates 4,132 average page views per page while The Barbecue Bible generates 38 average page views per page.
Just to give you an idea, these are the approximate number of pages for each of the top 10 barbecue and grilling websites. These numbers do not include navigational pages, indexes, or auto-generated content.
|Hey Grill, Hey||487|
|Smoked BBQ Source||595|
|The Online Grill||434|
|Food Fire Friends||323|
|How to BBQ Right||683|
|Girls Can Grill||309|
Age is Just a Number
The age of a website plays little role in its popularity. As a general rule of thumb, SEO experts will say that it takes two years for a site to gain good search placement, but beyond that, how long a website has been around doesn’t necessarily increase its performance. Look at how long the top 10 barbecue & grilling websites have existed based on their registered domains. Please keep in mind, that the domain registrations do not necessarily reflect when the site was officially launched.
|Website||Domain Registration Date|
|Hey Grill, Hey||2015-03-09|
|Smoked BBQ Source||2016-01-17|
|The Online Grill||2014-09-24|
|Food Fire Friends||2017-08-31|
|How to BBQ Right||2007-05-08|
|Girls Can Grill||2013-07-09|
Note: The Barbecue Bible was initially created to support Steven Raichlen’s landmark work of the same name. Over the years, it has been through several iterations before settling into the website we know today.
Generating web traffic isn’t an esoteric science that most of us believe it is. Radical fluctuations are not as common as some may suggest. Website outages, search algorithm changes, and viral moments can certainly affect traffic, but the truth is websites are much more likely to wax and wane over time. Some rise while others fall, as a pattern emerges over the long term that shows changes in a website’s popularity.
Below I have graphed SEMRush’s traffic estimates for the top four most popular barbecue & grilling websites from July 2019 to April 2021. You can see that despite a brief downturn for Hey Grill, Hey in early 2020, the patterns appear smooth and consistent.
Projecting the Future
Many of the most popular barbecue & grilling websites have seen impressive growth rates over the past year. By looking at these growth rates, we can get a idea of who might make this list next year. First, let’s consider the growth rates for the top ten sites.
|Hey Grill, Hey||151%|
|Smoked BBQ Source||343%|
|The Online Grill||916%|
|Food Fire Friends||127%|
|How to BBQ Right||39%|
|Girls Can Grill||67%|
Of course, maintaining growth rates over 200% is rare and challenging at best. By digging deeper into the numbers and adjusting for seasonal effect, the life of the website, and content growth, I can project that the list would look like this in May 2022.
- Hey Grill Hey
- Smoked BBQ Source
- The Online Grill
- Jess Pryles
- Amazing Ribs
- Food Fire Friends
- Barbecue Bible
- Girls Can Grill
- How to BBQ Right
This list does not include sites that could possibly climb into the top ten. While these contenders exist, making such a list next year would require keeping conjecture to a minimum and merely illustrating trends that the current top ten sites would follow if the growth rates remained the same.
Traffic estimates for this article were derived from freely available sites so that anyone can confirm the information presented. I do maintain subscriptions to multiple analytics firms that estimate traffic patterns across the internet. I used these proprietary services to weigh and verify each free website’s result for traffic and comparative performance, indicating that the patterns hold true. The sources for my data are:
Women are Gaining Ground in Barbecue!
Three women-owned and operated barbecue sites are on this top 10 list. They have done a fantastic job opening up barbecue and grilling to a large female audience while maintaining well-written, approachable information for all people to enjoy.
Susie Bulloch of Hey Grill Hey got her start as a recipe developer for Traeger Grills. She now holds two Guinness Book of World Records for grilling, has appeared on dozens of TV programs, and sells her own line of rubs and sauces.
Australian-born Jess Pryles co-founded the Australasian Barbecue Alliance to support BBQ down-under before migrating to Austin, TX. She has also appeared on multiple television programs, launched her line of BBQ Rubs, and has her own JP signature smoker from Pitts & Spitts.
Christie Vanover of Girls Can Grill captains her own KCBS competition barbecue team. She also has a line of rubs and is dedicated to teaching women how to grill and smoke foods.
A Dynamic Landscape
The oldest site on this list formed twenty-three years ago, while the newest will celebrate its fourth anniversary later in the year. Longevity is no guarantee of success in the online world. The largest site has more than 3,400 pages of unique content, while the smallest has just over 320 pages. Search engines don't necessarily favor a breadth of content. It doesn't hurt, but the vast majority of traffic is focused on a small portion of a website's overall content.
Please note that competition for web users in this topic space has grown faster than the potential audience, as are the tools used by web developers and site authors to maximize search placement.
Now, while social media platforms, podcasts, video sharing sites, and smart device apps have expanded the landscape, the humble website remains the primary source of attention and engagement for most online content creators. That may wane over time. However, when presented with a question, most people turn to search engines for the answer.
Speaking From Experience
In 1997 I began authoring the website bbq.about.com. Seventeen months later, Google emerged. Then much later came Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and all the others. While there were great barbecue & grilling sites in those days, the competition was low, and interest was continually growing. At its peak, my site (which I authored and had complete editorial control over) reached more than 4 million monthly users with page views exceeding 400,000 a day. To my knowledge, no other barbecue & grilling website has reached those numbers since.
Working to build a popular website in the natal stage of search engines presented its challenges. I worked with individuals who would become the founders of Search Engine Optimization. I beta-tested data analytics systems and helped develop early prototypes of site metric measurements. I learned the value of data, and became an expert in statistical modeling and mathematics. I worked very hard to succeed.
But all that work took its toll. I worked primarily by myself at first then later with my writing partner. I was fortunate enough not to worry about operating advertising systems, web servers, or most of the guts of a large online presence early on. I authored an enormous compendium of content, traveled constantly, guided people through their barbecue experiences, taught classes, judged competitions, and appeared on TV, podcasts, radio shows, and in numerous publications worldwide. The days were long; averaging 80 to 100 hours a week. I worked on Christmas. I spent Thanksgiving morning answering panicked questions from first-time turkey cooks. I loved it, but it was exhausting. I, probably more than most, appreciate the dedication it takes to hit the top spot on any list. It's no easy feat, with or without a team.
So my hearty congratulations go out to Susie Bulloch and her team at Hey Grill Hey for creating excellent, accessible content and for building one of the most popular barbecue & grilling websites. And to everyone on this list, thank you for creating such great content. What you do makes barbecue better and brings more people to the fire.